Transport for London (TFL) has become the latest local government organisation to announce a substantial initiative towards reducing traffic emissions. This is aimed at all road users but will inevitably have a disproportionate impact on those using the roads for professional reasons, including the typical courier driver. |
All around the globe, major cities are suffering from air pollution to one extent or another. While the problem in metropolises such as Beijing is particularly bad and regularly makes global headline news, it is an issue for most large cities and their surrounding suburbs.
Although the pollution statistics for London are reasonably positive when compared to many other cities in Western Europe, nevertheless, there is an increasing determination to reduce those levels even further.
That’s why TFL have launched the five-year “LoCity” exercise, which is bringing together a number of industry and scientific parties in order to try and identify specific actions that will yield real pollution reduction benefits. Their objectives are to not only increase the number of low-pollution vehicles on the road, but also to augment London’s support infrastructure for cleaner fuels, including providing more readily available vehicle battery recharging and hydrogen fuel points.
The Implications for Professional Road Users
As the initiative progresses over time, the effects on people using the roads for their business are likely to be increasingly noticeable.
Excluding courier services provided over public transport systems or those that use bicycles, the typical courier driver is likely to be using some form of vehicle or motorcycle. As such, unless they are already using electric systems, they will be included in the initiative’s objectives to try and reduce those pollution levels.
It seems intuitively likely that the early activities of the reduced emissions projects will involve people taking voluntary action. However, sooner or later there will be the need to transition to some form of incentivised action. That may well mean things such as taxation or congestion charge discounting for a courier driver using an approved low-emissions vehicle.
Once that happens, the competitive pressures within the industry will create a significant move towards discarding inefficient and heavily polluting vehicles in favour of clean ones. Few couriers will wish to run vehicles that are costing more to run on a year-by-year basis than those of their competitors.
Even so, the cost justifications in such circumstances will need to be significant for large numbers of courier service providers to voluntarily make wholesale changes to their fleet and vehicle procurement policies.
Some industry analysts are pointing out that while the objectives of programmes such as TFL’s are laudable, there are also very significant technical problems to be overcome before our roads can become largely pollution-free.
For example, for professional users such as a typical courier driver, electric vehicles still suffer from problems including battery life limitations, lengthy recharging requirements and the absence of widespread familiarity with the technology when things go wrong.
In spite of all these inhibitors, it does seem as though the prospect of a revolutionary change in the nature of vehicles is now visible on the horizon. That is something any courier driver should welcome, but the authorities will need to consider the economic effects of pushing professional road users too hard towards a rapid uptake of new vehicle types.
Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier driver work in the express freight exchange industry. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.
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